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Why Elections Now?

On March 28 2006, the newly formed Kadima Party stormed into power. The party -- founded by the charismatic Ariel Sharon and made up of top Likud and Labor politicians who defected along with Sharon -- captured 29 of the Knesset's 120 seats on a platform of additional unilateral withdrawals similar to the Disengagement Plan carried out in August 2005.

Prior to the elections, however, Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke that left him in a coma and the party leadership was transferred to Ehud Olmert. Olmert led Kadima to victory in the elections and served as Prime Minister for over two and half years until September 2008 when he resigned amid numerous personal scandals. Olmert still serves as "care taker" Prime Minister and is expected to do so until after the upcoming elections.

After Olmert's resignation, however, the responsibility of forming a new government fell on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. In the political jockeying that characterizes all such negotiations, Kadima's coalition partners-among them Ehud Barak's Labor Party and Eli Yishai's Shas Party-assumed Livni would not forego her opportunity to be Israel's second female prime minister after Golda Meir. They therefore pressed Livni for additional power as well as for political "pork" for their constituents. Instead of capitulating to their demands, however, she opted to call general elections.

The date for the elections was set for February 10, 2009.